Wednesday, November 7, 2012

No storks but lots of other bird life

We had a lovely clear blue sky this morning. Since we had to go to Empuriabrava, we decided it would be a good day to catch up on what was happening at the Aiguamolls Nature Reserve. But first we stopped at our favourite restaurant, the Blue Sky Cafe with its outstanding Italian chef, for lunch. I started with quail salad, which had two pieces of quail dipped in flour and fried served with salad. The quail was delicious. My second course was a beautiful piece of cod set atop pieces of sliced potato, some cherry tomatoes, thin slices of green and red pepper and some thinly sliced garlic cooked in parchment paper. Seamus had salmon cooked in a cava vegetable sauce. Usually, we don't have dessert but I weakened and had beautiful pannacotta topped with a few raspberries, currants and blackberries. Did I mention that the menu of the day cost only €12? Meals at Blue Sky are always outstanding and great value for the money.

At the Aiguamolls we immediately headed for the first blind looking forward to seeing the storks. What a surprise! The two hundred storks were gone. There were still lots of mallards. In fact we watched one male mallard holding something underwater that looked like it could have been a stick but it turned out to be a female mallard's head. There were some new arrivals: grebes, coots and a lone northern shoveler duck. The cormorants had staked out their usual place, shared with a few ducks, on a floating log. There were a few great blue herons on islands packed with mallards. There were large, white spoonbills perched on an island and flamingoes flapping their vividly coloured pink and black wings. Some of them looked like they were trying to walk on the water. Later some of them looked like they were swimming but in reality they were crouched down with their heads at water level scooping up food and eating it. Every so often a brown marsh harrier would swoop overhead.

We walked down to the barn with all the huge storks' nests. Empty. All the nesting platforms were empty. Even the resident stork colony had flown the coop for warmer climes in northern Africa. The Aiguamolls is on migratory routes stretching from Iceland, Scandinavia and Russia to Africa.

The water level in the Aiguamolls was very high. The channels down each side of the path were full. Today the Camarague ponies were standing in a field almost covered in water. As they fed you would hear big slurping noises as they found the grass underwater. There were some very young ponies still dressed in their brown coats before losing them to turn white.

Suddenly, the sky darkened and it was time to retrace our steps. We heard a man in a field calling someone. Eventually, a Camarague pony came along following the man and leading a long line of cows. It was a funny sight.

Back on the road again, we stopped at an Agroboutique that we hadn't visited before. There was the usual wine and more olive oil than usual. In the back of the building was a huge antique olive press with three giant rectangular stones that were used for pressing the oil. Outside the building next door there was a huge hopper filled with big, green olives.  One old man kept coming out of the building with big jugs of olive oil. A frantoia. I had to go inside and take a look. A number of men were waiting for their oil. There was a huge electric crushing machine that had pipes leading into a steel vat. A lady turned the tap on the vat and out came beautiful, green olive oil to fill a jug. The same old man carried more jugs of his oil back to his car. I wish that I could have tasted the oil. We may return on the weekend when the agroboutique has several events going on including a demonstration at the frantoia.

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